The Worlds Of Gerry And Sylvia Anderson by Ian Fryer (book review).

For a book on the Anderson empire with an introduction by Shane Rimmer, it seems a shame that the marionette he voiced, Scott Tracy, isn’t on the cover or even in the centre selection of colour photographs.

For his part, author Ian Fryer, in his introduction to ‘The Worlds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’, cites most of the other books on the subject for his research, and I own most of them.

So what does make this book unique is the focus on the production people beyond the Andersons, often looking at their history before, during, and after their tenure. This neatly divides the chapters up further on the significant people.

This leads into a chapter on ‘Space Patrol’ and how scenes were filmed in blocks. This also explains how Galasphere 347 continually gets the number of its stand-in when the crew can’t wait for it to be serviced. Keeping costs down was a problem for both companies.

I did think it was a mistake not to have the voice cast at the opening of each chapter devoted to each puppet series. It isn’t like it would take more than a couple lines. Whether you agree with each sample episode leaves much to be debated.

I thought he was doing nicely until I reached his ‘Thunderbirds’ chapter. Either Fryer didn’t have him having someone cross-checking or relying too much on memory, especially as he gets things right in the main text. In the opening paragraph, he says ‘Thunderbirds’ had 25-minute episodes, but later on, the correct length is 50 minutes in the text. Some errors should never be made. Thunderbird 4 comes out of pod 4, not pod 2! The crablogger destroyed a slice of a village, not a town, let alone not being its target, but the real danger was to a dam. With the film ‘Thunderbird 6’, it was news to me that the Hood was behind the villainy. All right, minor mistakes can happen in any book, but things so obvious do damage the credibility of the book overall. On reflection, one person Fryer omitted was Arthur Cripps, who started as a caretaker, but when it was realised he made realistic miniature props, he got a promotion and a new career.

With ‘Captain Scarlet’, his original body and that of Captain Brown were killed and mysteronized. All the evidence for Captain Black is him being mind-controlled, hence his more deathly pallor.

Unless IMdB got it wrong, Donald Grey’s real name was Eldred Ordemann Tidbury, not Elred, but that could simply drop a letter. The reference is to his part and lead in a private detective series called ‘Mark Sabre’, although you’ll probably find all existing episodes other than the title ‘The Vice’ (1954–1961) on DVD.

Fryer’s documentation of scriptwriter Donald James’s credits neglects one famous one for the US’s ‘Mission Impossible’ season 4, episode 7, ‘Submarine’, which is very much revered as the perfect mission. Although when he was asked if he’d like to work in America, he declined. ‘Mission Impossible’ is mentioned in the ‘UFO’ chapter, but it does seem odd that it’s not encapsulated in his history.

Speaking of ‘UFO’, I’d hardly call the headquarters uniforms unisex, as there’s a distinct difference between male and female outfits. Moonbase operatives described the purple wigs for females as anti-static. When I was young, I thought it was to cause problems with equipment, but now I am inclined to believe it stopped their hair from standing on end. It’s a bit hard to be consistent on TV. Fryer also misnames Peter Gordeno’s character as ‘John Carlin’, not ‘Peter Carlin’. Likewise, there were four episodes, not one of which was confined to late-night viewing because of its adult content at the time.

One thing I will add about ‘The Protectors’. Having only 25 minutes for a story cuts things down to the bone, giving little chance for any character development.

The history then concentrates solely on Gerry, not Sylvia. Whether this was a lack of space or page count, it would be hard to say. It’s not as though Sylvia didn’t have a career after their divorce.

The strength of this book comes from looking at the people in the various companies and their careers. The main reason for me cringing at mistakes is that if I’m doing so, then so will any other Century 21 fan who reads this book, which is a shame, although after 8 years I doubt if anyone in the publishing house will care now. It should be used as a warning to all potential authors out there to really check the facts and check the proofs before seeing print.

GF Willmetts

April 2024

(pub: Fonthill Media Limited, 2015. 224 page hardback. Price: varies. ISBN: 98-1-78155-504-0)

check out website: www.fonthillmedia.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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